The Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase II (ATSEA-2) Project, in collaboration with Taka Foundation, has organised a series of trainings to enhance the quality of processed fishery products and business administration management for fishing communities in the Aru Archipelago, Maluku and Merauke District, South Papua. Spanning from November 2023 to February 2024, this initiative has successfully supported five fishing groups across different locations, involving a total of 95 coastal communities. 

A fisherfolk in Aru meticulously dries balobo fish, a crucial step in the traditional salted fish making process

In Merauke, the beneficiaries include Eltimo Food from Lampu Satu Village and Yanbui from Kumbe Village. Meanwhile, in Aru Archipelago, supported groups comprise Longgar Jaya from Longgar Village, Balobo Star from Apara Village, Kora Evar from Wangel Village the Dobo smoked fish group from Siwa Lima Village. Each group, with its unique commodities, embarked on this path with determination and hope.

Through comprehensive training sessions, the groups were introduced with practical insights into fish processing, business management and the vast potential of market linkage. The goal is to equip these communities with the skills and certifications necessary to elevate their products to meet the Domestic Industry Production Certificate (Sertifikat Produksi Pangan Industri Rumah Tangga/SPP-PIRT) and the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority (Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan/BPOM) certification standards, thereby unlocking new markets and opportunities.

A critical component of the project was the development and implementation of market linkage strategies, both offline and online. Offline approaches involved direct consumer engagement, while online strategies leveraged digital marketplaces and social media platforms, significantly increasing sales projections and improving the financial stability of the involved community groups.

Additionally, the groups were supported in creating sticker designs for their fishery product packaging. This effort helps in fulfilling licensing requirements and strengthens the brand image of each group’s products. For instance, the Dobo Smoked Fish group, which initially used plastic bags for packaging, transitioned to cardboard as a more sustainable alternative after undergoing training on hygienic and environmentally friendly packaging methods.

Economic Impact: Boosting Productivity and Profits

Freshly smoked catch from the Dobo Smoked Fish group, showcasing traditional smoking methods for exceptional flavour

Beyond merely achieving certifications, the initiative catalysed a remarkable boost in income for these communities. In Merauke, the Eltimo group was able to produce a maximum of approximately 100 packets of fish balls, the Yanbui group with its new storage pallet could produce 100-300 kg of salted fish in one production cycle.

Groups in the Aru Archipelago also saw notable improvements. The Dobo Smoked Fish group maintained a steady profit, with an average daily production of 500-600 pieces and an income of IDR 1 million per day. The Kora Evar group took advantage of fish skins to produce 80 packets based on orders. Additionally, the Balobo Star and Longgar Jaya groups, who initiated the salted fish business, achieved a production of 500 kg and earned profits of up to IDR 15 million from November 2023 to February 2024.

In addition, partnerships have allowed products from Eltimo Food and the salted fish from Balobo Star and Longgar Jaya to reach markets in Jakarta from Merauke and Aru through Nizzam Food vendors. Feedback from an e-commerce platform highlighted that the salted fish lived up to its description, being both tasty and tender, exactly as advertised.

Despite these successes, the initiative faced challenges, notably in limited access to public infrastructure like the internet. Unreliable network signals have significantly hindered online sales activities.

The impact of this program goes beyond mere sales achievements. It has successfully cultivated a network of collaboration among local businesses and other entities, fostering a community that shares knowledge, experiences, and support. This network is instrumental in driving sustainable economic growth in the region.

By Avicenna Wijayanto and Arrico Fathur Yudha B. (Taka Foundation)